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James River Association to challenge Dominion coal ash permit

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The Bremo Bluff Power Plant sits near the James, in Fluvana PHOTO: Dominion Virginia Power

RICHMOND, Va. — The James River Association says they will challenge a permit issued by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to Dominion Virginia Power last month, which will allow the discharge of 350 million gallons of coal ash pond water into the James River.

On behalf of the James River Association, Southern Environmental Law Center has filed a notice with DEQ and Dominion to appeal the permit. This notice of appeal is required prior to filing the actual appeal of the permit with a state court judge in Richmond.

Under the January agreement, Dominion will drain water from coal ash ponds at Bremo Bluff Power Station in Fluvanna county into the James River.

Coal ash is left over from burning coal and is commonly stored in retaining ponds generally on site of coal burning power plants. Potentially toxic concentrations of heavy metals inherent to coal ash include arsenic and mercury. Coal ash waste water, according to environmentalist is what will be released into the James River.

There are three coal ash ponds which contain approximately 357 million gallons of water (dependent on  rainfall) to be cleared at Bremo.

The James River Association says they are challenging the failure of the permit to protect a high quality water body, as required by the Clean Water Act.

The James River Association explained their position in a press release:

“In violation of the law, the permit does not require Dominion to fully use readily available water treatment technologies to remove enough of the toxic metals from the wastewater to meet state water quality standards before it is released into the river.”

“The James River Association is committed to ensuring that the James River is fully protected from the harmful effects of coal ash. The James River near Bremo Power Station is a biologically healthy and diverse section of the river with important resources that must be protected,” said Bill Street, CEO at James River Association. “We are deeply disappointed that the permit approved by the State Water Control Board fell short of fully protecting the James River when the technology to meet stronger water quality protections is readily available and affordable. We are filing notice of an appeal to ensure that ‘America’s Founding River’ receives the same level of protection as any other waters.”

Dominion and the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) officials have both declared the plan is safe for humans and aquatic life. Dominion maintains that there has been a lot of misinformation circulated about the process, that the permit is designed to protect the James and that the company, according to a spokesperson, “intends to fully comply with all state and federal requirements.”

“It is important to note that DEQ has issued thousands of permits like the Bremo permit over the years – all of them meeting Virginia’s lawful water quality requirements and protecting human health and the environment,” said Bill Hayden, spokesperson for the DEQ, in a previous interview.